Meet Craig

Craig is a gentle and fastidious man whose challenging life history one could not possibly envision when sitting down to talk with him.

His reality is one of acting out against his parents' discipline until the age of 18. Not able to keep a job for very long and struggling with life throughout the ensuing years, he was ultimately diagnosed with anxiety, depression and bi-polar disorder. When he was approved for disability benefits at just 40 years old, “I admitted it then,” he recalls.


He and his girlfriend were living with family in a large Orlando home, sharing the rent and responsibilities. The arrangement began to sour as he felt increasingly disrespected by the others. His response was to pack, put most of his belongings in storage and move into the Salvation Army, where he stayed for two years. Relocating to the woods, he partied and drank until he developed chronic pancreatitis, resulting in recurring hospital visits. Deciding he had to get out of the woods for his health, he returned to the Salvation Army and saved money for an apartment, but went back to the woods when a rental agreement fell through. The one good happening was that “I just stopped [drinking] cold turkey.”


His next stop was Coalition for the Homeless, where his merry-go-round of places began to slow down. “I used that time to recoup. I started healing,” he said of his nine months there. His case manager “got me involved in saving some money. It gave me stability.”


Craig’s Coalition case manager, Malik, also told him about Pathlight HOME’s Maxwell Garden Apartments and our Permanent Supportive Housing Programs.


“He started telling me about this place…what they do [for chronically homeless residents]. I wasn’t sure. I was scared….yet I couldn’t see another choice.” Craig decided to visit Maxwell Garden and meet with our Occupancy Specialist. When he “looked around” the facility and grounds he realized, “It looked okay; I felt safe!” And the rest is history, as they say. Craig became a resident of our Homes for New Beginnings (HNB) Program on May 16, 2017.


“I’m really so grateful for this apartment. It’s SO much more than I could ever hope for,” he says. “It’s given me a base where I feel comfortable…and have a safe home to come home to!” His pride and longtime desire to have “nice things” is evident as he adds, “I love cleaning my home.”


Craig also expresses his gratitude for those involved in his transformation, such as Mr. Malik and his HNB case manager, Ms. Gail Smith, for her caring, help and encouragement. “I guess you can have a really nice life if you trust in things and people who are trying to help you.”


Now “having a home base” in his Maxwell Garden efficiency, Craig’s existence is very different than in years past. He’s become a self-described “news junkie” who keeps to himself, enjoys researching topics on his laptop, wakes up early to coffee, relishes dusting and mopping his place, and is able to keep his medical appointments.


Musing about his life, Craig recognizes that, “If I wasn’t here, I’d probably be homeless in the woods.” Given an obvious pride at his changed life, we have no doubt about his choice for the future. One might say he’s off the merry-go-round!

Meet Barbara

4049 S. Orange Blossom Trail, in front of Maxwell Garden Apartments, is home to one of Pathlight HOME’s wonderful Social Enterprise Programs, Sobik’s Subs Café.

As a social enterprise, our unique café provides training and employment opportunities to formerly homeless and low-income students in the Pathlight Kitchen Culinary Training Program, right along with its yummy breakfast and lunch items, catering, event room, and free Wi-Fi. Thanks to an added partnership with Starbucks “We Proudly Serve,” you can also enjoy Starbuck’s delicious coffees and teas. How exactly, does Sobik’s Subs Café operate so efficiently? We owe it to the hard work of our quite competent manager, Barbara!


Born and raised in Georgia, Barbara moved to Orlando in middle school and has been residing here since. She reflects fondly on her childhood, accrediting her cooking abilities to her mother. “I learned to cook at a young age. My mom taught me how to make biscuits. They were hard as a rock! But [with practice over time] I got the hang of it.”


Cooking was always in the forefront of her mind when considering what career path she would pursue as she grew older. “I knew how to cook well, but I wanted professional training.” She decided to pursue culinary training, where she “learned the ins and outs of working as a chef.” After training and landing an internship, she was able to begin her career, which ultimately led her into the position she has now, as Manager of Sobik’s Subs Café for the past two years.


As manager, Barbara has incorporated popular additions to the Sobik’s Subs menu such as muffins, cereal, and other options for “on the go” customers that need a quick breakfast before work. She has big plans for the future, and hopes expand the menu even further, possibly adding pizza and wings - delicious complements to our signature subs! When she isn’t busy managing the business, she also plans to start taking baking classes, so she can implement a dessert and pastry menu in the future. With the support of her two new part-time employees, Kris and Christopher, working in the front and back of the kitchen, Barbara is confident her goals for our Sobik’s Subs location are possible.


Barbara’s career is proof that hard work and utilizing community resources can lead to success. When asked what she recommends to someone considering taking Pathlight Kitchen’s 12-week Culinary Training Program, she says to go for it! “It’s great because it’s fast paced, but it’s worth it. The amount you learn happens quickly. If you are interested in a culinary career, it’s a great foundation. It opens many doors.”


Barbara reflects on the “doors” that were opened in her life after becoming the manager at Sobik’s Subs Café. “I am learning how to manage a business. In the future, if I want to open my own business, I will have the foundation to do so. This has been a great opportunity.”


We are so thankful in return to have Barbara as part of the Pathlight HOME team.

Inside Pathlight Kitchen’s Culinary Training Program

September 20, 2018 was an exciting day at Pathlight Kitchen, one dedicated to celebrating the graduation of our wonderful Culinary Training Program students!

Over the past 12 weeks, these students have worked hard in the classroom and our commercial kitchen to complete a comprehensive culinary skills course. Their studies, supported by the online information and videos of “Rouxbe,” a world leading online culinary program, and the intense hands-on training by our Pathlight Kitchen Chefs, culminated in the day’s graduation ceremony.


Executive Chef Esteban and Chef Instructor Holly proudly awarded the students diplomas, chef coats, and their hard earned ServSafe Manager Certifications for completing the course. The students, along with their families and friends, took pictures and shared fond memories of the past 12 weeks. A delicious lunch followed, and everyone left with a sense of optimism and accomplishment heading into the future.


As Chef Esteban and Holly prepared for the next cycle of Culinary Training classes, which started October 1, we asked them to reflect on the past graduating classes and their experience as the instructors. A typical day in the Culinary Training Program begins with welcoming the students and reviewing the lesson plan for the day.


The students then complete a lesson(s) on Rouxbe, which teaches them about food preparation, safety, kitchen procedures, and much more. (It’s also a wonderful resource as students can access the program online and learn outside of the classroom.) They proceed to the commercial kitchen to practice firsthand what they have Culinary Training Program students learning to cook in the Pathlight Kitchen free 12-week trainingjust seen online, under the watchful and experienced eyes and hands of their instructors.


The students work with one another and the instructors, following directions to create a delicious dish. Once it is complete, they clean up and then taste their creation, while discussing what went well and what areas they can improve upon for the next class.


When asked to describe the purpose of the program, Chef Holly replied, “We have a great facility here [at Pathlight Kitchen]. We are training and giving [low-income] students the skills they need to get and keep a job in the culinary field. [They] are on the road to be self-sufficient for themselves and their families.” To this point, there have already been many successes in this class. Multiple students have secured culinary jobs, one student is working toward starting a catering business, and other recent graduates are eagerly taking their marketable skills and applying for jobs.


Chefs Esteban and Holly have big plans they hope to implement for future classes. “We are excited to have Starbucks come in October to teach a class on drink preparation,” Esteban exclaimed. “We hope to expand Pathlight Kitchen into a catering service as well in the months to come.”


It is definitely an understatement that Chef Esteban and Holly make a great team. Holly boasts about her Culinary Institute of America educated colleague. When asked what advice they have for the recent graduates and for people considering enrolling in the Culinary Training Program, Chef Esteban said simply, “commitment and discipline is key in all aspects of life.”


Without a doubt, with Chefs as dedicated to empowering others as Esteban and Holly, we are confident our future students will continue to excel and work toward successful careers!